Most people agree that conserving resources and saving energy is a good thing. We may have a recycling box and energy saving lightbulbs at home, and are super careful about not having the heating on any more than necessary. Lower energy bills are a great motivator, of course, as is the feeling of doing our bit to combat climate change. Couldn’t we do the same at the office?
With over 10 million office workers in the UK and the vast majority of our working week spent at the office, just think how much impact could be made if we adopted environmentally responsible behaviours at work.
Sadly, many offices make no more than a token effort to go green. Government legislation and regulations are primarily aimed at hazardous and industrial waste, with no formal pressure put on offices to even recycle – leaving it up to individual organisations to put environmental policies in place if they so choose.
From the actual floor space of your office rental, to simpler efforts like turning off equipment at night or questioning ‘do I need to print this’ – a little effort goes a long way when it comes to going green. So, if you want your office to make a concerted effort to become environmentally responsible, while reaping the financial benefits of saving energy – here are 3 areas where implementing simple changes should bring real rewards.
Did you realise that the energy used to power a computer monitor that’s left on overnight equates to the same amount of energy needed to laser print 800 pages? A photocopier left on all night wastes enough energy to print 1,500 copies. Here’s an easy win: make sure all computer equipment, including printers, photocopiers and scanners, is switched off at the end of every working day.
Of course, the convenience of office printers and photocopiers lies in the fact that they are available on demand. Newer energy saving models are available that automatically switch into stand-by mode when not in use, meaning up to 60% of energy can be saved during the working day, reducing electricity bills. If your office machines currently don’t have this feature, think about making automatic stand-by power consumption a priority when you next upgrade your hardware.
For small offices, consider the possibility of a multi-functioned machine that can print, copy and scan. With only one piece of equipment using power instead of 3 individual devices, the cost savings and lower environmental impact through the entire lifecycle of the machine are inarguably massive.
- Paper use
Did you know that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year, of which 6,800 sheets are wasted? According to recent statistics, every person in Britain consumes the equivalent of 4.48 trees every year. Those are truly shocking figures.
When it comes to printing and copying documents in the office, it’s worth asking yourself each time: is it really necessary or would an electronic copy or email be sufficient? And if you do need a hardcopy, could it be printed double sided, or at half size? Reducing the amount of paper used in the office not only makes good financial sense, it literally saves trees.
Paper recycling should be another easy win. However, unlike at home, where local councils will supply recycling boxes and organise regular disposal, companies generally need to take independent measures for this to happen. Rather than having to comply with regulations, it’s largely left up to individual businesses to put a recycling policy in place. As a minimum, your company should have a paper recycling box and
- Reuse paper for general use in the office, thereby saving on notepads and scrap paper. Many printers (check with manufacturers’ guidelines) will be happy to print on the other side, which is perfectly adequate for internal draft printouts.
- Recycle all paper containing sensitive information. Shredded documents can be used for compost or donated to pet stores or animal shelters as bedding.
- Lighting and heating
Were you aware that leaving the office lights on overnight wastes enough energy to heat water for 1,000 cups of tea? According to a recent survey, 94% of us turn the lights off at home to cut energy costs, but only 66% are bothering to do the same at the office. Again, the solution is, literally, blindingly obvious: ask the last person to leave the office to switch off the lights!
Electric heaters are notorious for gobbling up electricity, but you may not have realised that they also generate twice the amount of greenhouse gas compared to central heating. If you have electric heating at the office, it’s worth thinking about upgrading.
If your office is centrally heated, when was the last time anyone checked the central heating thermostat? Overheating the office by only few degrees each day could mean thousands of pounds a year spent on wasted energy. Did you know that by turning the thermostat down by just 1 degree can knock 10% off the cost of heating the office? And the best bit is you won’t even notice the difference in temperature!
There’s a lot of talk about ‘smart meters’ at the moment – they display how much energy your office is consuming and transmit the information directly to your energy supplier. If you’re keen to lower your office energy consumption, this information may be very useful. What’s more, it may give you a clearer idea of whether you’re paying over the odds for your energy bills, motivating you to switch suppliers in order to cut costs.
Many people assume creating an environmentally friendly office will be expensive – but it doesn’t have to be. Even small changes such as draught proofing door strips, heat saving window blinds and energy saving lightbulbs can make a real difference. Obviously, the more eco friendly measures have been taken, the lower your office energy bills will be. The Carbon Trust suggests that savings cut potentially be as much as 65%. Surely, that’s a cost saving that no business can afford to ignore?
Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?
The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?
The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.
Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.
The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.
Introducing New Technology
The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.
- To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
- Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
- Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.
How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy
Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.
The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.
The Internet of Things
Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.
Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.
It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.
4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.
However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?
A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.
1. Boulder Nissan
When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:
- Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
- They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
- Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.
This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.
2. Valley Electric Association
In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.
This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.
3. Las Vegas Casinos
A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.
“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.
4. Boston College
Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.
Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.
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